What is child abuse?

Abuse can happen to a child at any age, from pre-birth up to the age of 18. It can happen in well-off families and in poor families; it can happen to children from any ethnic and cultural background; it can happen to children with or without disabilities; it can be deliberate or unintentional.

Children can experience abuse at home, at school, in leisure activities, in children's homes - in fact anywhere. The abuse is usually caused by someone the child knows and rarely by a stranger.

Abuse can happen because of the way adults or other children and young people behave towards a child; it can also result from adults failing to provide proper care for the children they look after.

There are obvious risks to the health and well-being of children who suffer abuse, and in extreme cases a child may die if concerns are not acted on. Abuse is likely to cause long-term damage to a child's present and future life. It may lead to permanent physical and/or mental health problems, difficulty in achieving success in such areas as education, social relationships, job prospects, and parenting ability.

Abuse comes in many forms and knowing how to spot the signs means you have the chance to help a child in danger.